Archive for July, 2011

Why I Wake Early

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

     During the summer months, it feels natural to me to awaken early, unlike in the winter, when I only want to burrow more deeply into the cozy warmth of bed.  But on these summer mornings, it is a delight to get up, step outside, and feel the morning’s sunny warmth.

     I very much like Mary Oliver’s poem below, on the joy of greeting the sun early in the day.–April Moore

Why I Wake Early


Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –


best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.


Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.


~ Mary Oliver ~




the view from our deck on this July morning

the view from our deck on this July morning

I Was Wrong

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

     I recently posted a ‘good news’ piece about the Obama administration’s intention to extend a ban on uranium mining on a million acres adjacent to the Grand Canyon.  The decision to protect one of the earth’s greatest treasures from the pollution of industrialization was hailed by environmentalists and by clean drinking water advocates and water utilities of southwestern cities.  

     But I’m afraid we’ll have to set down our champagne glasses.  The administration’s decision to protect the Grand Canyon may soon be buried deep beneath a tsunami environmentalists have dubbed “the Great Outdoors Giveaway.” 

     This giveway, also known as the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2012, is a corporate polluter’s dream come true.  And it’s a nightmare for wildlife and for those of us who care about maintaining the earth’s treasures for our children.  

     If passed, this appropriations bill would override that administration decision.  It would open up  those million acres adjacent to the Grand Canyon to uranium mining, along with millions of other now-protected acres to mining and other industrial activities.  

     But it gets worse. 

     This appropriations bill is loaded with special interest provisions that would:

  • enable the timber industry to pollute the waters of America’s national forestlands–lands that provide water for more than 60 million Americans.
  • Slash funds to the Legacy Roads and Trails program that has ensured forest watershed restoration and recreational access while protecting drinking water supplies and fisheries’ health.

     The bill even takes aim at modest federal efforts to address global warming.   Despite record-breaking drought, fires, and flooding, all of which are expected to worsen with climate change, Republican Members of Congress are using this appropriations bill as an opportunity to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency.  The bill would prohibit the EPA from acting to reduce the emissions that are driving extreme climate events.  And in what seems like sheer madness, the bill would even prohibit the EPA from following the accepted science of climate change!

     Additionally, this horrifying piece of legislation would cut $83 million in funding that could help our national parks, national forests, our wildlife refuges, and conservation lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management address the worst impacts of climate change.  

     Republicans in Congress have been working for quite some time to give wealthy corporate polluters a free hand to do as they please to increase their profits, without having to respect our natural treasures, not to mention the very air we breathe and the water we drink. 

     But this 2012 appropriations bill now making its way through the U.S.  House of Representatives is one of the worst onslaughts against the environment we have seen yet.  And it must be stopped.

     Many national environmental organizations are calling on citizens to contact their Member of Congress and to urge their Representative to defeat the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2012.

     You can help by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 201-224-3121.  Ask for the office of your Representative by name.  When you reach your Congressperson’s office, I suggest not leaving a voice message but rather asking to speak to the staff member who handles environmental issues.  And let that staff member know how strongly you feel that our environment must be protected, not degraded, that you want your Representative to speak out against this extremely damaging bill and to vote against it.–April Moore




Pine Siskin

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

     I am grateful to Barbi Schulick for her permission to publish this lovely piece she wrote about her son’s thrilling experience with a pine siskin.  I have always longed to have such an experience myself.  Enjoy.–April Moore

     When he was a small boy, my son Geremy loved small creatures.  


     He’d take joy in catching a cricket in his cupped hands, then make a show of letting it go, hopping when it hopped, following it into the tall grass until he lost sight of it.  He traveled our yard with his head down, his big dark eyes hunting for anything moving at ground level.  I was forever piercing holes in jar tops to supply airflow for his spiders and their prey.  


     Soon he moved on to toads, and he had an eye for them—locating one hunched and brown among autumn leaves, scooping another out from the dirt behind the front steps.  He kept two as pets:  “Toader” and “Toaderette.”  When they peed in his palm, he’d yelp and toss them to the kitchen floor.  I constructed a chicken wire cage for them in the backyard, digging it two feet under so they could hibernate for the winter.


     When Geremy was eight or nine, he discovered birds.  I didn’t fully witness his love for them emerging, didn’t notice the first moment he maraveled at a chickadee cracking a seed against a branch or caught sight of the flash of red inside a blackbird’s wing.  But more often, it seemed, his gaze focused upwards and out came the binoculars, field guides, birding journals.


     Geremy was a thin, slight boy with a shy sweetness that placed him barely on the edge of his grade school’s in-crowd.  His lack of competitive spirit confined him to the bench in Little League.  He was one to do puzzles, to painstakingly sort and categorize his baseball cards, to read the Nintendo guideline booklet cover to cover, and to watch birds—for hours—outside the kitchen window, keeping track in his journal of how many goldfinch came at what time, whether they were male or female, whether there were babies, and describing how they scattered with the arrival of a blue jay.


     I remember a spring when a flock of pine siskins frequented the feeders.  Geremy loved how miniature they were, even smaller than juncos and cipping sparrows.  The thin, brown-speckled wisps of their bodies balanced on legs slighter than toothpicks.  He longed to know them better, and so after school each day, he stood on the deck in front of the feeders, holding black oil sunflower seeds in his outstretched hand.  


     At first his arrival sent dozens of birds away from the feeders ands nearby bushes, flapping their tiny wings in alarmed retreat.  But gradually the group swooped back, in what seemed a corporate decision to ignore the small human holding out seeds.  Geremy stayed put, applying his trademark patience, moving only to wave off a mosquito now and then.  And I’d watch, wishing with a mother’s fervor that a bird would come to him but never surprised that one didn’t.  Eventually I’d announce dinner, and he’d plod in, dragging his feet, vowing not to give up.


     The afternoon the pine siskin perched on his hand, I was cooking something demanding:  a sauce that mustn’t boil, a stir-fry to constantly stir, food that should be eaten right away, and so, as I turned off the stove burners, I yelled:  “Geremy, come in now, it’s dinner!”


     Then setting the table in a flurry, I yelled again:  “Geremy, Dinner!”


     And while pouring drinks:  “Geremy!”


     “Quiet!” came an urgent whisper from behind me.  I turned to find my husband staring out the glass swing set door at Geremy on the deck.  There, our little bird of a son was standing straight as a soldier, one thin arm shooting out at a perfect right angle.  As if in salute, his palm was upturned, the long fingers flattened together to form a platform for a tiny, brown pine siskin that stood equally erect and looked back at him.


     I studied Geremy from the kitchen for those three, four, maybe five seconds, and although he appeared so still that even his breath was halted, I could detect a gentle tilt in his stance, his head and torso reaching delicately towards the bird at the edge of his unmoving arm.  It was a yielding that spoke of reverence, recognition, of the sort of hospitality a flower might offer a butterfly.  He had become a place for a pine siskin to rest.


     When the bird finally flew, Geremy’s breath shuddered through him, returning in a grateful rush.  He turned to look at us.  Sweat had formed on his upper lip, his cheeks were flaming, and I saw wisdom in his young eyes.  Through the coming weeks, he would describe over and over how it felt to be so close to the bird, to feel it buoyant, almost weightless, on his fingers.  And though he’d try again to woo one, he’d never be successful, so that those few seconds with a pine siskin, his siskin, would be held in memory and heart, the way one remembers words from God issuing through a breeze.



Environment Under Attack–Please Call Your Congressperson!

Monday, July 18th, 2011

     It’s time to pick up the phone and call your Member of Congress.


     This week the U.S. House of Representatives will take up an anti-environmental “spending” bill that would destroy many of the nation’s most important environmental protections, while also slashing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.


     Under the guise of ‘cutting spending,’ the House Interior Appropriations bill is a Republican effort to eviscerate decades of environmental progress supported by a majority of Americans of all political parties.  No, this bill is not about cutting the deficit;  it guts environmental programs, while continuing $4 billion a year to the big oil companies in taxpayer subsidies.


     The bill recently passed in committee, with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats opposing it, will likely be acted upon by the full House this week.


     Here’s what the House Interior Appropriations bill would do:

  • Exempt Big Oil’s massive offshore drilling operations from Clean Air Act requirements designed to protect our health and our environment.
  • Prohibit the EPA from using funds to reduce carbon dioxide pollution that leads to climate change; and keep the agency from enforcing Clean Water Act protections for thousands of American streams and wetlands.
  • Slash funding for National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund; the Forest Legacy Program and the Legacy Roads and Trails Program.
  • Slash the enormously successful and popular Land and Water Conservation Fund by 80% — all but terminating it. The LWCF uses a portion of funds from offshore oil drilling revenues to help conserve federal, state and local open space, outdoor recreation opportunities, trails, and park land nationwide. As states make their own deep cuts to budgets, this program grows in importance.
  • Eliminate water pollution laws for logging roads on national forests and allow for expanded off-road vehicle use on national forests in California.
  • Overturn a recent Obama Administration decision to prohibit uranium mining at Grand Canyon National Park.

     So please contact your Member of Congress in the next day or so.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Give your Rep’s name and ask to be connected to his or her office.  Because of all that’s at stake, I recommend waiting to speak to a staffer, rather than leaving a message on a machine that is likely checked once a day at the most.


     Please urge others to call as well.—April Moore



Water Snake

Friday, July 15th, 2011

     I thank John Cochrane for sending me this delightful poem by Mary Oliver.  I love the feeling of sweet safety the poet imagines the snake experiencing upon escape from an encounter with a human!  –April Moore    

        by Mary Oliver

I saw him
in a dry place
on a hot day,
a traveler
making his way
from one pond to another,
and he lifted up
his chary face
and looked at me
with his gravel eyes,
and the feather of his tongue
shot in and out
of his otherwise clamped mouth
and I stopped on the path
to give him room,
and he went past me
with his head high,
loathing me, I think,
for my long legs,
my poor body, like a post,
my many fingers,
for he didn’t linger
but, touching the other side of the path,
he headed, in long lunges and quick heaves,
straight to the nearest basin
of sweet black water and weeds,
and solitude

Grand Canyon Protected from Uranium Mining

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

     Great news for the Grand Canyon and for all who care about this great treasure:  the Obama administration intends to extend for the next 20 years a ban on mining on a million acres that border the Grand Canyon.

     A mining moratorium was put in place two years ago in response to a giant spike in the number of uranium mining claims placed on these Grand Canyon border lands.  The number of new uranium mining claims had jumped 2,000% in the last seven years as a result of higher prices for uranium.  

     Environmentalists hailed the decision.  “Mining would have affected the watershed, disturbed critical wildlife habitat, industrialized the perimeter of the Grand Canyon,” said Roger Clark, air and energy director for the Grand Canyon Trust.  “It’s kind of like locating a meat packing house next to the Vatican;  it’s an incompatible use of the land.” 

     In addition to the large coalition of environmental groups that worked for the 20 year extension of the about-to-expire two year moratorium on new mining claims, the water utilities of Los Angeles and other southwestern cities advocated for a continued ban.  They feared a contamination of the Colorado River watershed as a result of mining.  

     The burst of mining claims at the Grand Canyon are among thousands that have been filed along the borders of many national parks and wilderness areas.  In the past seven years, mining companies have filed claims to the rights to uranium, copper, gold, and other metals on land around Mount Rushmore, Joshua Tree National Park, and other refuges.  Critics explain that an outmoded 1872 law is driving the rapid increase in claims in sensitive places.  That law allows corporations to stake out rights to federal lands for mining without a competitive bid and to extract resources without paying penalties.

     I cheer the Obama administration’s decision to protect the Grand Canyon.  But I will rest easier after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issues his final decision on the moratorium this fall.  No doubt mining interests will be pressuring the administration to scale back its protection.–April Moore





Grand Canyon, preserved! With a uranium-mining ban about to expire in the area surrounding the famous U.S. landmark, Arizona resident Suzanne Sparling led the charge to extend it. She collected 50,000 public comments from members, and last Monday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his support for another 20-year ban on the dangerous practice.

World Population Day

Friday, July 8th, 2011

     This Monday, July 11, is World Population Day.  The purpose of this annual observance, established by the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, is to raise awareness of global population issues. 

     This year’s World Population Day will call public attention to the fact that this year the human population will cross the seven billion mark.  Sometime in October, the seven billionth human inhabitant of our planet is expected to enter the world.  Never before have so many humans been alive at the same time. 

     I find the seven billion figure sobering.  It is more than double the world’s population of 1970, the year I started college and began learning about population growth.  At that point, the world’s population was 3.4 billion.  And although population growth has slowed from its 1960s peak of 2% per year, with a global doubling time of just 35 years, the human population is still growing. Today’s annual growth rate of 1.14% may sound negligible, but it means a global population doubling time of 61 years.  Population experts project a population of 13 billion by 2067 if the current rate of increase continues.

     Figures in the billions can be hard to grasp.  But when they’re broken down into smaller increments, they become easier to understand.  For example, every day, there are more than 200,000 additional humans on the planet than there were the day before.  That’s right; the number of births minus the number of deaths mean a net daily growth rate of more than 200,000.  Every year there are 78 million more humans than there were the year before.  Another way to think of that figure is to imagine adding more than 25 very large cities to the planet every year.

     I know that some people believe population growth is not a problem, but to me the difficulties posed by our increasing numbers are obvious.  The growing demand for resources puts greater pressure on our finite planet.  And the Green Revolution is over;  it’s doubtful that we can make more big strides in increasing food production.  And then there’s global warming.  It is changing weather patterns in farming communities all over the world. 

     But it’s not just a matter of feeding all of us humans.  Our growing numbers are stressing ecosystems worldwide.  Many, many species have gone extinct or are in great decline because more houses, more shopping malls, more human activity in general, is destroying wildlife habitat.

     In its effort to increase public awareness and understanding of global population issues, the United Nations has launched a global campaign called ’7 Billion Actions.’   With the motto, “Seven Billion People Counting On Each Other,” the campaign is working to get governments, corporations, schools, non-profits, and individuals to take action to address the seven key challenges that the growing human family faces:  environment, poverty, gender equality, youth, aging, urbanization, and reproductive health.  Despite the seriousness of these issues, campaign organizers are hopeful.  Because our modern technologies enable people to be more connected, and because the world’s young people are using these new technologies in creative new ways, new possibilities exist for education and action, oganizers say.  

     ’7 Billion Actions’ has suggestions for everyone.  As one of the world’s seven billion human inhabitants, you might want to check out to find out what you can do to help address the challenges posed by our growing human population, including the challeng of stabilizing the human population.–April Moore  

A Snake In the Grass

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

     Well, you never know what you’re going to find when exploring outside. 

     Last week when I went out after a rainy night, in search of box turtles, I found instead a ribbonsnake.   There it was on the grassy hillside by our home, a still length of green between two yellow ‘racing’ stripes.  Its head was erect, and no part of its sleek, narrow body moved. 

     I stood watching, just a few feet away.  How long would the snake remain so still, I wondered.  Every minute or so I stepped a little closer, just as quietly as I could.  The snake remained motionless.  But when I knelt to get a picture, it reacted instantly.  Whipping its head away from me, and bringing its bnody along, it glided swiftly through the dried leaves and grass.  Now at a safe distance, it gathered itself into something of a coil and stared at me, its tongue darting in and out.  A sign of distress, I assumed.

     I stepped back, and before long, the tongue darting stopped.  I assumed the snake felt safe once again.  But it kept watching me.  And just to ensure its safety, or so it seemed to me, the snake’s head disappeared between two rocks that formed part of a small wall of a little herb garden.  The snake’s entire length followed the head into the tiny space between the rocks and vanished, leaving me amazed.  How could the snake’s entire length of two feet or so fit inside that bed of soil behind the wall?

     Well, since that day, I have walked down the hill twice more, including this morning, in hopes of seeing the ribbonsnake again.  And both times I have.  The second time, though, I startled it, and it slipped into the same wall into which it had disappeared before.

     In vain, I waited silently, hoping the snake would emerge from the wall.  No such luck.  But I did hear a rustling sound from inside the wall.   It had to be the snake moving in there!–April Moore

More about the ribbonsnake:
     Seeing the ribbonsnake so ‘up close and personal’ made me curious to learn more about the animal.  And here’s what I found out: 

     The ribbonsnake is a very common species, with four sub-species, found pretty much all over the U.S.  Non-poisonous, it is a member of the garter snake family.  The name ‘ribbonsnake’ comes from its slender body;  its circumference is much less than that of many other snakes. 

     I was surprised to read that the tail of this snake is about a third of the snake’s length.  But since when does a snake have a tail, I wondered.  Where does a snake’s body end and its tail begin?

     Also to my surprise, everything I read about the ribbonsnake indicated that this snake lives near water, where it swims to capture aquatic prey.  So what is it doing on our dry, rocky hillside, I wondered.  Then I read that it may also be found near a seeping spring.  Indeed, water has flowed out of our hillside in the vicinity of the ribbonsnake’s “home,” during and after some raging storms we’ve had in the last few months.  Or maybe our watering of the few plants in the terrace garden where this fellow seems to live has provided enough moisture to attract a water-loving snake.

     The ribbonsnake’s diet is varied, apparently, and includes fish (not here), newts, salamanders, frogs, worms, spiders, caterpillars, and a variety of insects.  In turn, the ribbonsnake may be eaten by weasels, large fish (not here), other carnivorous animals, and some other snakes, including rattlesnakes.

      Ribbonsnakes mate in May, and females give birth to 3-26 live young in August.  In the colder parts of its range, the ribbonsnake hibernates, choosing a rocky crevice or an ant mound or the burrow of some small mammal.

     Below are a couple of photos I caught of the ribbonsnake that seems to live on our hillside.–April Moore


a ribbonsnake on the hillside near our house

a ribbonsnake on the hillside near our house




the ribbonsnake coiling away in distress

the ribbonsnake coiling away in distress







INTERdependence Day

Friday, July 1st, 2011

     With the Fourth of July just a few days away, I reflect on the fact that independence and individuality were once prized values of mine.  But now I think it is much more important to acknowledge–and celebrate–our interdependence.  If humanity is to survive and thrive, we need each other.  And we need to stop degrading our planet. 

     The following piece, by Shane Claiborne and published by The Huffington Post, offers 30+ suggestions that are good for strengthening our human community and also for healing the planet.–April Moore

     Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of us all being bound up in an “inescapable web of mutuality.” He talked of how we have encountered half the world by the time we have put on our clothes, brushed our teeth, drunk our coffee and eaten our breakfast, as there are invisible faces that make our lives possible every day. That’s why I’ve always struggled with “Independence Day.”

Patriotism can be a dangerous thing if it leads to amnesia about the dark patches of our nation’s history. And it can leave us shortsighted if our nationalism prevents us from seeing pain or hope beyond our borders. As an American, and especially as a Christian, I am convinced that a love for our own people is not a bad thing, but love doesn’t stop at borders. Love is infinitely boundless and all about holy trespassing and offensive friendships.

We are taught to celebrate independence. But independence and individualism have come at a great price. In the wealthy and industrialized countries we have become the richest people in the world, but we also have some of the highest rates of loneliness, depression, and suicide. We are rich, sad, and lonely. We are living into patterns that not only leave much of the world hungry for bread and starved for justice but also leave us longing for the good life and for meaning and purpose beyond ourselves.

The good news is that we are not alone in the world.

This year, let’s celebrate Interdependence Day — recognizing the fact that we are part of a global neighborhood. Let’s appreciate all the invisible people in our lives, and let’s lament the fact that the human family is terribly dysfunctional.

It’s not about being anti-American but about being pro-world. It’s a beautiful thing to realize that we need each other and that we are not alone in the world. So, I’ve worked with some friends to brainstorm great ways to celebrate “Interdependence Day” this Fourth of July. Here’s what we came up with:

1) Track down old teachers and mentors. Let them know the influence they have had in your life.

2) Babysit for someone for free, especially someone that might really need a night off and not be able to afford a sitter.

3) Try to go a whole week without spending any money. If you have to, barter or beg a little to make it through.

4) Hold a baby goods exchange where parents can bring toys and clothing their kids have outgrown and trade them.

5) Attempt to repair something that is broken. Appreciate the people who repair things for you on a regular basis.

6) Look through your clothes. Learn about one of the countries where they are manufactured. Do some research to discover the working conditions and commit to doing one thing to improve the lives of people who live there.

7) Look for everything you have two of, and give one away.

8) Dig up a bucket of soil and look through it to see the elements and organisms that make our daily meals possible.

9) Spend the Fourth of July baking cookies or bread. Give them away to the person who delivers your mail or picks up your trash the next time you see him or her.

10) Host a rain-barrel party and teach neighbors how to make and use rain-barrels to recycle water.

11) Spend a day hiking in the woods. Consider how God cares for the lilies and sparrows — and you.

12) Gather some neighbors, and plant a tree in your neighborhood together.

13) Hold a knowledge exchange where you gather friends or neighbors to share skills or something they are learning.

14) Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Then, each time you eat that food, remember the folks who made it possible for you to it it.

15) Become a pen-pal with someone in prison.

16) Try recycling water from the washer or sink to flush your toilet. Remember the 1.2 billion folks who don’t have clean water.

17) Leave a random tip for someone cleaning the streets or the public restroom.

18) Write one CEO every month this year. Affirm or critique the ethics of their companies. (You may need to do a little research first.) Consider starting with BP.

19) Wash your clothes by hand and dry them on a line. Remember the 1.6 billion people who do not have electricity.

20) Learn to sew. Try making your own clothes for a year.

21) Eat only a bowl of rice a day for a week (take a multi-vitamin). And remember the 25,000 people who die of malnutrition and starvation each day.

22) Begin a scholarship fund so that for every one of your own children you send to college, you can create a scholarship for an at-risk youth. Get to know his or her family and learn from each other.

23) Visit a worship service where you will be a minority. Invite someone to dinner at your house, or have dinner with someone there if they invite you.

24) Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask forgiveness.

25) Serve in a homeless shelter. For extra credit, go back to that shelter and eat or sleep there and allow yourself to be served.

26) Go through a local thrift store and drop $1 bills in random pockets of clothing being sold.

27) Experiment in creation-care by going fuel-free for a week — bike, carpool or walk.

28) Go to an elderly home and get a list of folks who don’t get any visitors. Visit them each week and tell stories, read together, or play board games.

29) Laugh at advertisements, especially ones that teach you that you can buy happiness.

30) Go down a line of parked cars and pay for the meters that are expired. Leave a little note of niceness.

31) Connect with a group of migrant workers or farmers who grow your food. Visit their farm. Maybe even pick some veggies with them. Ask what they get paid.

32) Mow your neighbor’s grass.

33) Ask the next person who asks you for change to join you for dinner.

34) Invest money in a micro-lending bank.

35) Start setting aside 10 percent of your income to give away to folks in need.

36) Write paper letters (by hand) for a month. Try writing someone who needs encouragement or whom you should say “I’m sorry” to.

37) Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.

38) Go without food for one day to remember the two billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

Add yours to the list.

May we celebrate Interdependence Day today and everyday. It is a gift to be part of this inescapable web of mutuality.


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